Everyone’s attention is now turned towards British Champions Day at Ascot, where some of the biggest names of the season are due to go head-to-head on Saturday 21st October.
The day holds four Group 1 races, one Group 2, and the prestigious Balmoral Handicap.
Read on for discussion of the chances of the current favourites on British Champions Day.
Group 2 Long Distance Cup, 2m (1.15pm)
Last seen finishing second to Eldar Eldarov in the G1 Irish St. Leger in September, Kyprios – who was unbeaten in six starts last season – is the current favourite. From the formidable stable of Aidan O’Brien, which has been responsible for three previous winners of the race, this son of Galileo has proven to be consistent and versatile, bringing in results on a variety of trips and going. While his last run has been seen by some as disappointing, it could be the perfect springboard for this race, and he should be in peak condition now to win this; he has won at Ascot before and we know he can handle any ground.
Trueshan – the winner of this race last year – has been very impressive in his last two starts, winning the G2 Doncaster Cup and the G1 Prix du Cadran three weeks ago. The son of Planteur is a soft-ground specialist, which he has had plenty of this summer and is likely to get again at Ascot this weekend, meaning that he should be perfectly primed for another good run. He is, however, at his best on truly soft ground, becoming more vulnerable to his rivals the better the ground is.
Group 1 Sprint Stakes, 6f (1.50pm)
Course and distance winner Kinross won this race last year and has had as good a season as ever, winning two G2 races and being beaten just half a length in his last start in the G1 Prix de la Foret. The son of Kingman is the very definition of versatility, having won on all types of going and over distances ranging six furlongs to a mile. Rarely seen outside of the placings, there should be little reason for Kinross not to perform to his usual, high standard here. It should be noted, however, that Kinross has not won a race of this distance yet this season, with both wins this summer coming over seven furlongs. Now six-years-old, six furlongs may not be best suited to him.
Shaquille, also a course and distance winner, won four consecutive starts earlier in the season before running too badly to be true at Haydock last time out. That run can be ruled out as an anomaly, and he has had plenty of time since then to get back to his best. He has improved greatly this season, rising in the ratings by 26 pounds, and has proven to be capable on the likely soft ground. He has frequently overcome awkward and wide draws, so – if returning to Ascot in his usual good form – he could win this easily.
Group 1 Fillies and Mares Stakes, 1m4f (2.25pm)
Free Wind, trained by John and Thady Gosden, having been very consistent in 2021 with four wins, has been unlucky not to get her preferred ground on many occasions this season, so her recent form doesn’t showcase her ability in the best light. If she were to get good ground on Champions Day, upon which she has never failed to win, she would be a formidable force, but it seems unlikely that the October weather Ascot is experiencing will allow her this. She may be vulnerable to horses more proven in testing conditions.
One such horse is Jackie Oh, trained by Aidan O’Brien. This daughter of Galileo has her best form on soft and heavy ground and was most recently seen finishing a very close second to Blue Rose Cen in the G1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp. This filly has gone from strength to strength this season and could be ready to win this, provided she agrees with the step up in trip from 1m2f last time out.
Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, 1m (3.05pm)
This year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will see the biggest named three-year-old colt take on the biggest named three-year-old filly of the season; Paddington and Tahiyra.
Paddington has been sensational this year, winning six consecutive starts including four Group 1s, two of which were against older horses. He goes on good, soft or heavy ground and has won over seven furlongs, a mile and ten furlongs this season. Although beaten last time out – on which his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, said the colt has possibly had one start to many – he still ran competitively against some top-class older horses and – having had plenty of time to recoup since then – could bounce back to winning form here.
Tahiyra has been more lightly-raced this season, having had only had four starts, all in Group 1 races, three of which she has won. She goes up against colts for the very first time here, but can be expected to hold her own and has the advantage of a fillies’ weight allowance. Add that to her weight-for-age, and she carries the lowest weight of the whole field, which could count for a lot in the likely softer ground. She may have to prove herself against the likes of Paddington, but can make her presence duly felt.
Group 1 Champion Stakes, 1m2f (3.34pm)
French-trained Horizon Dore has won six of his eight career starts and has now won four consecutive races over this distance by a combined 11¾ lengths. The biggest question for him is likely to be the track at Ascot, which he visits for the first time, whereas his best rivals all have winning course form. He is well proven over the trip and on soft ground, but is yet to race in Group 1 company so will have to take a step forward and show that he can handle the undulations at Ascot.
King Of Steel, who won the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot over 1m4f, has run to his credit on each of his four appearances this season. Though his best form has been on good-to-firm, he won his racecourse debut on soft ground as a two-year-old, so can clearly handle it to some degree. He was only beaten a length last time out in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes when given quite a lot to do in the closing stages, so connections could expect a good performance this time, having had six weeks between races.
Balmoral Handicap, 1m (4.25pm)
Three-year-old Docklands won a hat-trick earlier this season, showing versatility as these three races were on the All-Weather, soft ground and good-to-firm ground respectively. He will go up against older horses in a handicap for the first time here, but will be coming to Ascot fresh as his last run was at the beginning of August. Proven over this distance and capable in any conditions, he could be the one to beat.